Poetic Themes of the Romantic Period

by strassur

I was reading some poetry from the early Romantic Period when I began to think about the difference in poetic theory amongst some of the more famous writers.  William Wordsworth’s theory of poetry was to display actual events through poems in a language that we actually use.  “Tis true had gone before this hour, the work of massacre in which the senseless sword was pray’d to as a judge” (The Prelude, Book 10)  He speaks of the Revolution in simple terms and in the above passage, talks about the violence where the sword is the ultimate judge of man.  I feel like he believes in a time of war and revolution, mob rule and violence takes priority over God and politics.  The time for speeches and prayer to induce change is over, now man is judged by way of sword.

Samuel Coleridge mirrors the theory, but added more emphasis on imagination.  Imagination with a little symbolism, such as the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is bad luck to kill.  The story as a whole is based around the result of the mariner killing the symbolic bird.  As such, the mariner must travel the earth and retell his tale.  Both Coleridge and Wordsworth write in ways that are easy to read and rely more on painting a great scene then displaying fancy words.

Percy Shelley seemed to be on the more extreme side in his poetry.  He was expelled from Oxford after writing a short piece on atheism.  I found a poem that he wrote titled The Masque of Anarchy which is considered the first modern statement of nonviolent resistance.  He would be a protestor of violence in any civil war or revolution.  Perhaps this style of writing would be the most effective in the revolutionary sense because it can be more controversial.  Good or bad, publicity gives the piece more exposure which spreads quickly.  Should Shelley’s life had been longer, he could have continued to write on matters that sparked his passion under his extreme craft and continued to make waves against his opposition.  Wordsworth and Coleridge may have been read and understood by more people, including those on a lower literacy level, but may not have had the same powerful impact.